PPT calls for more equitable partnerships with autonomous vehicle companies

PPT was recently referenced in a New York Times article about Pittsburgh’s relationship to Uber.

from the article:

In January, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a nonprofit representing bus drivers and riders, organized a #DeleteUber social media campaign and a street demonstration against the company’s decision to continue airport service when taxi drivers had halted rides to protest the Trump administration’s travel ban.

Molly Nichols, executive director of the group, said Uber had called to ask her to cancel the protest, which ultimately went ahead.

“The warning signs about Uber’s questionable business practices were all over the place, and the mayor should have recognized that and worked harder to create a partnership that was more equitable,” Ms. Nichols said.

She added that there might be longer-term problems from autonomous vehicles, including automation’s effect on Uber’s 4,000 drivers in the city. Parking fees also make up about 15 percent of Pittsburgh’s revenue, and the city has not said how those funds would be replaced if fewer people owned and parked cars and used driverless services instead, she said.”

Representatives from PPT, ATU Local 85, and One PA had met with Mayor Peduto in April, and we shared various requests (see below). The Mayor was receptive and invited us to be part of the conversation about how to craft a “social contract” with private autonomous vehicle companies. If you’d like to be involved in this campaign, email: info@pittsburghforpublictransit.org


Dear Mayor Peduto,

In February, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s role on the Trump Economic Advisory Council and the company’s questionable response to the travel ban and to the subsequent NY Taxi Alliance drivers’ strike provoked serious concern about Uber’s role in our city. And in just this last month since the Pittsburgh Uber protest, allegations of pervasive sexual harassment of female engineers on the job and Kalanick’s own shameful treatment of drivers have surfaced. These issues are themselves enough to warrant serious reexamination about Uber’s relationship to Pittsburgh. However, we have additional on-going concerns about the company’s business practices and their harmful impacts on workers, riders, taxpayers and our city.

Uber does not disclose the data it is gathering around automated vehicles including safety information; they have flaunted state regulations and oversight in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and have failed to pay fines owed; they continue to use public infrastructure without substantive financial return for the city; they allege that they have no driver “employees” and so they offer no employee benefits nor are drivers allowed to organize; their plans for automating vehicles will result in massive job losses of their own driver “partners” and good county transit worker jobs; and there are no just transition plans in place. These are just a few of a much larger list of problematic business practices at Uber that have been exposed in recent months.

We appreciate that you have been voicing similar concerns about the company, and that “if they are going to be involved in economic disruption, they have a moral obligation to society,” as you stated to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. We agree that it is appropriate and necessary to require that Uber be made to comply with several demands in exchange for their use of Pittsburgh public infrastructure. We suggest that Uber be required to:

  1. Open source their data and algorithms
  1. Share profit with the City from any sale of autonomous vehicle technology
  1. Make it a condition of any autonomous vehicle technology sale that manufacturing of autonomous vehicle parts must be done in Pittsburgh
  1. Create a democratically-controlled just transition fund for their drivers and other jobs that they will be displacing.

In addition, as taxpayers and concerned constituents, we are asking for the City to do the following:

  1. Disclose the full extent of Uber’s relationship with the City and County.
  1. Reveal all public resources being provided to the company, (for example, tax incentives, use of public roadways, etc.)
  1. Analyze the possible impact of automated vehicle technology to the workforce, to traffic and congestion, to the environment, and public transit ridership.
  1. Analyze the possible loss of City revenue from parking from automated vehicle technology.
  1. Create a publicly-owned fund for workers and city/county residents that is produced by taxation on increased productivity from autonomous vehicles.
  1. Evaluate publicly-owned and operated, unionized, accessible, equitable on-demand transit service options.

Pittsburgh was at a similar juncture 40 years ago with the automation of the steel industry; we have an opportunity with the benefit of hindsight to plan instead for a positive transition. A March 12th Post-Gazette article about the driverless future highlights some critical concerns: “‘Left unregulated, the popularity and affordability of driverless cars may have the opposite effect for cities by increasing congestion, encouraging sprawl and exacerbating growing inequalities,’ said Peter Glus of Arcadis in a statement. ‘Additionally, public agencies may face lower transit ridership, resulting in lost revenues from transit tickets, parking fees, traffic fines, and other once-reliable revenue sources.’ The rise of autonomous vehicles could also lead to greater unemployment among professional drivers while those with limited access to technology may not be able to take advantage of the services.”

We look forward to having a productive conversation about how we can ensure that decisions about our transportation systems equitably serve the residents of our City.


Laura Wiens, aurallaura@gmail.com, Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Erin Kramer, erin@onepa.org, One Pennsylvania

Tom Conroy, tomconroy@hotmail.com, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85


PPT has serious concerns about fare enforcement policy

Port Authority released their fare enforcement policy:

Here is the coalition’s earlier request to meet with the Port Authority about the policy, including our specific requests. We think a policy with such significant impact on riders should be influenced by the public.

May 9th 2017

Dear Ellen McLean and Jeff Letwin,

We understand that the Port Authority has decided to delay implementation of the proof of payment policy on the T, but this step is not sufficient. Our coalition is asking the agency to halt the implementation of the policy until it has gone through a legitimate public process. A policy with such significant ramifications should be influenced by public input. We expect the policy to include the following:

  • The de-criminalization of fare evasion
    • Unpaid citations will not lead to criminal charges or jail time. Instead, a debt collector will be contacted
  • The fare inspectors will not be armed police officers
  • A model that encourages ridership rather than punishes fare evaders
  • Extensive, annual training for fare inspectors and Port Authority police that includes
    • Cultural responsiveness
    • Preventing racial profiling
    • De-escalation
    • Interacting with people with mental health challenges and disabilities

The policy will explicitly state:

  • The constitutional rights of all immigrants will be upheld.
  • Port Authority police will not inquire about anyone’s immigration status
  • The names and information of individuals who are cited will never be shared publicly or with Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Port Authority police will not grant any ICE requests to detain individuals without a judicial warrant
    • If an individual’s name is run through the system, Port Authority police will not comply with ICE requests to hold an individual
    • If an individual’s name is run through the system and comes up as having an ICE warrant (rather than a judicial warrant), Port Authority police will not hold the individual for ICE

*holding an individual based on ICE’s request without a judicial warrant is unconstitutional

  • Internal and external accountability measures must be in place for all fare inspectors and Port Authority police
  • Port Authority police policies should be open and available on their website
  • Police need to track data and share an annual report to the public (number of stops, reason person was stopped, location, race and age of person stopped, if stop equated with arrest or conviction)
  • Port Authority police should not use dogs to attack people
  • More inclusiveness and diversity in the Port Authority police’s hiring and promoting practices

We would like to meet and discuss these concerns and requests with you in the next 2 weeks and look forward to hearing from you.


Chandana Cherukupalli, Molly Nichols, DéPree Hopkins, chandana@pittsburghforpublictransit.org, 718-309-0853, Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Christina Castillo, Gabriel McMorland, Christina@thomasmertoncenter.org, Thomas Merton Center

Monica Ruiz, Jeimy Sanchez Ruiz, ruizcsj@gmail.com, Casa San Jose

Brandi Fisher, Brandifisher33@gmail.com, Alliance for Police Accountability


Chief Executive of Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald

Port Authority Director of Operations Bill Miller

Port Authority Communications Officer Jim Ritchie

Port Authority Police Chief Matt Porter

Port Authority board member Jennifer Liptak

Mifflin Estates wins bus service!!!

A huge win for Mifflin Estates! Props to everyone who helped make this happen!

Port Authority says it will restore service to Mifflin Estates, use part surplus to balance proposed budget

by Ed Blazina, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Starr Magwood has watched for more than five years as her neighbors at Mifflin Estates in West Mifflin have struggled to walk nearly a mile for bus service or nearly two miles to reach a grocery store along mostly narrow roads with no sidewalks.

That likely will end in September, when Port Authority extends service on Route 55 to the complex via Camp Hollow and Lebanon School roads. Nearly five years after eliminating the service due to budget problems, the agency announced Thursday it would extend seven-day service to the complex with 200 families.

“I am absolutely excited,” said Ms. Magwood, spokeswoman for a group that has been lobbying for bus service for more than a year. “Knowing that they will have reliable service coming will put a lot of people at ease.”

Molly Nichols of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, who has been working with the group, praised the residents for their persistence and Port Authority for extending service.

“We’re really happy that Port Authority has found a way to do this,” Ms. Nichols said. “That community really came together to push for this.”

Ms. Magwood called the resumption of service “a start,” noting that Route 55 provides mostly local service and residents will have to transfer to get to Downtown or Oakland. But it will provide direct access to grocery stores and other shopping at Century III Mall or Century Square Shopping Center.

“This was like a forgotten little place,” she said. “Now people will be able to start doing things — going to a doctor’s appointment or the store — without the stress of having to figure out how to get there.”

Amy Silbermann, senior analyst in the Port Authority’s department of planning and evaluation, told a committee meeting Thursday the agency evaluated 136 requests for new service or extensions of existing service. Most were rejected because the agency doesn’t have existing employees or vehicles to increase service at peak times and doesn’t have garage space to accommodate more vehicles.

The agency also will make two other route changes: extending Route 56 to the Penn State Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport on weekends after weekday service proved popular, and changing Route 74 to provide a more direct connection between Squirrel Hill and Bakery Square.

The agency evaluates requests for service changes once a year as part of its budget process.

The authority’s proposed budget of $419.7 million presented to a board committee Thursday calls for using $4.4 million in surplus funds to balance it.

Pete Schenk, the agency’s chief financial officer, said the agency expects to end the current fiscal year June 30 with a surplus of about $11 million. The proposed budget is up about $22 million over the current year, which required using $1.9 million in surplus to balance it.

The committee also received a proposed capital budget of $133.4 million. That includes buying 70 new, 40-foot diesel buses, expanding a multi-modal station in McKeesport and contributing $2 million to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s plan to replace the Kenmawr Avenue Bridge in Rankin to accommodate a possible extension of the Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway.

The board is expected to vote on the budgets next month.

PPT announces incoming director!

PPT is very pleased to announce that Laura Wiens has accepted our offer to become the PPT Director. She will start in mid-June, and Molly’s last day will be June 30th. Please join us in welcoming Laura in her new role!

Laura has been involved with Pittsburghers for Public Transit since 2013, and is a longtime member of the PPT Coordinating Committee. She is committed to growing Pittsburghers for Public Transit’s role as a beacon for community organizing, transit, and housing justice in the region.

photo credit: WESA, from service celebration rally in 2015

Laura developed her passion for social justice on a Chandler Fellowship while studying community and grassroots radio, and its role in building a powerful, informed public to affect positive change. From 2005-2007, she worked in the post-conflict regions of Chiapas, MX; Cape Town, SA; and Belgrade, Serbia, all of which are contending with the effects of dramatic economic inequality and neoliberalism.

She joined the labor movement in 2007 as a rank and file member of the hospitality Union Unite Here! and moved to Pittsburgh in 2010 to take a position as a labor organizer in the Union. For the last two years, Laura has been the Director of Community Engagement for The Union Edge Radio, and has been responsible for the outreach and growth of the only nationally-syndicated labor talk radio program in the country.

Check out this fundraising video from a couple years ago, where Laura is featured:


Port Authority delays implementation of proof of payment on the T

In response to concerns from advocates, Port Authority delays implementation of proof of payment on the T.


Representatives from Casa San Jose, Alliance for Police Accountability, Pghers for Public Transit, the Thomas Merton Center, and the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network at the Port Authority board meeting to share concerns about the proof of payment policy.

For our request to the agency, see below:

Pittsburghers for Public Transit, Casa San Jose, the Thomas Merton Center, and the Alliance for Police Accountability are asking the Port Authority to delay implementing proof of payment on the T, slated to begin July 1st. This request is based on concerns about lack of public process and inadequate information about the policy and its impact on riders.  Text of letter is below:

Ellen McLean, CEO

Jeff Letwin, Chairman of the Board

Port Authority of Allegheny County

345 Sixth Ave

Pittsburgh, PA 15222


April 28th 2017

Dear Ms. McLean and Mr. Letwin,

We are writing to ask the Port Authority to delay the implementation of a proof of payment system on the light rail, which is slated to begin July 1st, 2017. This change was approved by the Port Authority board as part of the fare policy in the summer of 2016. However, the only information about this change that was available to riders during the public hearing was as follows: “A second phase that would allow the Authority’s light rail to also switch to a pay-on-enter and cashless proof-of-payment system would begin in the second half of 2017.”

At the time, Pittsburghers for Public Transit shared concerns about the proof of payment by providing the following statement: “Proof of payment on the rail involves having more police on the trains, and we are very concerned about how the policing and enforcement will happen. Measures would need to be in place to ensure that the enforcement does not target or profile certain routes or populations of riders. We know this has been an issue in other cities, and expect a detailed and thorough plan—along with extensive training for the police (including implicit bias training)—to make sure that does not happen in Pittsburgh.”

In the past couple months, various organizations have publicly shared concerns and asked questions, and we have yet to receive sufficient information about this policy, how it will be implemented and enforced, and the impact it will have on riders and the public at large.

The change is going into effect in just 2 months, and all we currently know is this:

  • Off-board fare collectors will no longer hold their positions and additional Port Authority police have been hired for the enforcement.
  • The Port Authority police are working on their policy of enforcement, but the policy has not been shared with the public.
  • If someone fails to pay a fare, the person’s name will be run through criminal records to see whether there are outstanding warrants.
  • The agency will collect the cost of the fare, while the fine of up to 300 dollars will go to the municipality where the evasion occurred.
  • Multiple infractions can lead to up to 30 days in jail, at the discretion of a district judge.

We have been told there are plans for a public education campaign, but the change is happening in just 2 months; this is not nearly enough time for the policies to be adequately vetted by the public. The agency will not be able to adequately acknowledge concerns from riders, especially about the enforcement, penalties, and increased policing.

We know proof of payment systems are on the rise throughout the country, especially for how they improve the operations of the system by allowing riders to board more quickly. There are also many instances of racial profiling, and there are many questions about the relationship between fare inspectors and immigration and customs enforcement. Public transit is not a border checkpoint. We have looked at other agencies across the country, and the San Francisco MTA stands out as a model Pittsburgh could aim to replicate. The agency underwent an extensive process to determine their policy and came up with the following.

They adopted local ordinances for establishing administrative penalties for transit violations. This allowed them to de-criminalize fare evasion. While we understand that riders need to understand there will be some consequence if they do not pay their fare, should that consequence include getting brought into the criminal justice system and facing possible jail time? In San Francisco, their ultimate goal is increasing ridership and making the system run more smoothly. They have un-armed fare inspectors who check for fare evasion. If someone has failed to pay, they escort them off the bus or train and show them how to pay their fare. Or they may issue a ticket. If this ticket is not paid, a third-party vendor is assigned to collect the debt. The processing overall mirrors that of parking violations. No one ends up in jail for not paying a transit fare.

The SFMTA have shared many benefits to decriminalization including: reducing the burden on the criminal court system, more convenient and flexible payment, and protest options. In addition, the revenue is retained by the issuing agency. Their policy also does not allow fare inspectors to share the names or addresses of those who received tickets with any other agency, including ICE. And the fare inspectors are trained in de-escalation to avoid un-needed conflict with riders.

The Port Authority and the public are not ready for this change to occur in just 2 months. There should be more time for sharing the policies, refining them according to public input, and ensuring that the system in place works best for the transit system and the community overall.

Our requests are the following:

  • Fare inspectors should not be armed police officers
  • Extensive training for fare inspectors that includes:
    • Implicit bias training
    • Preventing racial profiling
    • De-escalation
    • Interacting with people with mental health challenges and disabilities
  • A model that encourages ridership rather than punishes fare evaders
  • De-criminalization of fare evasion
  • The constitutional rights of all immigrants must be upheld
  • Port Authority police will not inquire about anyone’s immigration status
  • The names and information of individuals who are cited will never be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • External accountability measures must be in place for fare inspectors (whether they are Port Authority police, or not)


Chandana Cherukupalli, chandana@pittsburghforpublictransit.org, 718-309-0853, Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Christina Castillo, Christina@thomasmertoncenter.org, Thomas Merton Center

Monica Ruiz, ruizcsj@gmail.com, Casa San Jose

Brandi Fisher, Brandifisher33@gmail.com, Alliance for Police Accountability


Chief Executive of Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald

Port Authority Communications Officer Jim Ritchie

Port Authority Police Chief Matt Porter



PPT position on Bus Rapid Transit proposal

Media Release: Position on Bus Rapid Transit, April 5, 2017

Pittsburghers for Public Transit sees opportunities with the Bus Rapid Transit project proposal, but we also have many concerns and unanswered questions—about both the project and the public process.

60,000 transit riders are in the corridor between Downtown, Uptown, Oakland, and beyond each day. There is no question that infrastructure and service changes could benefit a lot of riders, but there are also some riders who could be negatively impacted. And there are some questions about if this project is where we should prioritize transportation investments. From the information we have right now, we acknowledge the following opportunities:

  • Dedicated bus lanes
  • Traffic signal prioritization for buses
  • Faster rides on some routes
  • Improved bus stations
  • Improved pedestrian access
  • Electric vehicles
  • Bike lanes

However, we are also very concerned about the following:

  • Required transfers (between 3,000 and 7,000)
  • Increased costs, especially if transfers are not free
  • Changes to local service, including less frequency
  • Fewer drop-off points for Access vehicles
  • Elimination of stops, which affects people with mobility challenges
  • Impacts of development; need upfront commitment there will be no displacement and adequate affordable housing as part of any development

While we acknowledge the value of the many presentations given to community groups in the past couple weeks, we have not seen adequate outreach among the most affected riders, namely those whose local service would change and those who would now require transfers. In the process of selecting a “locally preferred alternative” riders need to know the precise impact each option would have on their commutes. The City and Port Authority are asking for feedback on the 4 different options without laying out the impact on the local routes for each option. For example, if a rider currently takes a 61A into town from Braddock, how exactly would their commute be different?  Riders are also given 4 choices for service, but where is the room for other options the community might want?

After talking to a few hundred riders at bus stops downtown recently, we were surprised at how few of those who ride the 61s and 71s had heard anything about the Bus Rapid Transit project. We think the agency could do a better job getting the word out to riders, and we encourage riders to make sure their voices are heard, by taking the survey at www.portauthority.org or sending their comments to brt@portauthority.org. Riders can also attend the public meeting Wed April 5th in Oakland at Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave, 12-2 pm, and 4-7 pm

PPT leadership transition

Molly Nichols, the current Director of PPT, will be moving with her family to Tacoma, Washington this summer. We are acting very quickly to hire a new director, aiming for a June start date, which would allow for some overlap with Molly to ease the transition.

Job description is below. Please submit resume and 1 page cover letter asap to jonahmcallistererickson@gmail.com. Review will begin April 10th. We are especially interested in candidates who have some experience with Pittsburghers for Public Transit or grassroots organizing in Pittsburgh.

Position Description for Pittsburghers for Public Transit Director

Pittsburghers for Public Transit, a project of The Thomas Merton Center, is a grassroots organization of public transit riders, workers, and residents who defend and expand public transit. We mobilize action for equitable, affordable, and sustainable transportation systems.

PPT is seeking a full-time director to start in June of 2017. The Director, in consultation with the coordinating committee (board of 11 members), leads the organization to achieve its mission and vision. For more information on PPT: www.pittsburghforpublictransit.org

Duties and Responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Manage staff (1 full-time community organizer), fellows, and interns
  • Recruit and maintain active and involved coordinating committee, to whom the Director reports (The Thomas Merton Center director is on the committee)
  • Oversee community campaigns for adequate, affordable, and sustainable transit service
  • Oversee all organizational communications, outreach, and member engagement
  • Serve as primary media contact
  • Lead all fundraising, grant writing, and grant management
  • Maintain the budget
  • Direct development of research plans and goals
  • Build coalitions with other organizations to advocate for improved transportation and land use
  • Engage policy experts, agency officials, and elected officials on transportation issues


  • Organized, responsible, and independent self-starter with the ability to identify new opportunities, while effectively using existing resources
  • At least 3-5 years of experience in grassroots community organizing
  • At least 1-2 years experience managing staff and operations
  • Proven ability to work as part of a team and to handle fast paced situations
  • Strong and effective communication skills (public speaking, writing, etc.)
  • Values self-improvement, open to giving and receiving feedback
  • Passionate about public transit, labor, environmental justice, and equity.
  • Believes in the power of collective action to bring about systemic change
  • Experience working in an environment where commitment to diversity based on race, ethnic origin, gender, age, sexual orientation and physical ability is an important institutional value
  • Willingness to work flexible schedule, including nights and weekends
  • Willingness to travel throughout Allegheny County
  • Computer proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Drive, and a willingness to develop additional skills as needed.

The Thomas Merton Center is an equal opportunity employer. Women, people of color, and members of other under-represented groups are encouraged to apply.

Salary: 45,000 plus health benefits

Please submit resume and 1-page cover letter asap to jonahmcallistererickson@gmail.com. Review will begin April 10th. We are especially interested in candidates who have experience with Pittsburghers for Public Transit or grassroots organizing in Pittsburgh.


PPT Updates and Calls to Action

Mifflin Estates Transit Campaign Intensifies!

Thanks to the hard work of residents at Mifflin Estates, on March 7th, County Council put forth a motion to urge Port Authority to support the reinstating of bus service to the community. The motion was sponsored by Rep. Bob Macey who is the county council representative for West Mifflin. The motion was covered by The Trib.

Erica Fooks Speaking to County Council

Picture:Mifflin Estates resident Erica Fooks addressing county council

Resident Starr Magwood wrote a passionate letter addressed to county council:

“[Residents at Mifflin Estates have”] no choices but to uproot their families and find other housing, which is a struggle in its own. Left to catch a jitney or taxi.. or even worse, to take hike a mile and a half to the nearest bus stop. This mile an a half walk on an extremely dangerous and busy road…

That is a walk no one should be forced to take.

So what I want to know is, will you stand behind the residents to help us get Port Authority services back in our community?! As the councils that we elect, we would like to know what you can and will do to help us? ”

Residents will be speaking at the Port Authority board meeting on March 31st emphasizing the need for service to their community. Supporters from other campaigns and other PPT members will be there as well. If you are free and able to come out, please come show your support for Mifflin Estates! The board meeting will be on Friday, March 31st at 9:30 AM at 345 6th Avenue.

If you have any questions or are able to come, please call Chandana at 718-309-0853.

Transit Worker Appreciation Day

PPT celebrated transit worker appreciation day on March 21, 2017. Volunteers visited the Manchester Main Shop and the garages and gave out cards and candy to maintenance workers there. Volunteers were also downtown near the Wood Street T Station, handing out cards to riders waiting at bus stops and encouraging them to wish their drivers a Happy Transit Worker Appreciation Day!

We appreciate the opportunity to thank and honor the 2,000 public transit workers in Allegheny County who get riders to our destinations safely. These workers are out 365 days a year in rain, snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, as well as our hot summers. Bus operators collect fares, help riders find their way, handle safety issues, keep to a strict route schedule, and manage their way through traffic—along the steep and winding streets of our region. Maintenance workers maintain, repair, and clean the rails, buses, busways, stations, etc. These workers are the backbone of our transit system, and we are grateful for the work they do each day to keep Allegheny County moving.

PPT and Immigrant Rights Groups Bring Up Fare Change Policy Concerns at Port Authority Board Meeting

At the Port Authority Board meeting in February, immigrant rights groups expressed their concern about the new proof of payment policies to be implemented this summer and the effect the increased policing on the T will have on people of color and immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants.

PPT also spoke in support of their statements, and will be working alongside immigrant groups and the Alliance for Police Accountability on this issue. We are concerned about the role of police departments and ICE in the policing (and likely profiling) of riders on the T. The history of policing and racial injustice is serious and long, especially if there is insufficient training given to officers; examples abound in other cities with proof of payment. We are particularly worried about the impacts on undocumented immigrants, especially depending on Port Authority police’s relationship to ICE. PPT demands that police should be properly trained to prevent any kind of racial profiling. We need increased external accountability for Port Authority police action and decriminalization of fare evasion.

Penn Plaza Eviction Date Looms Closer

PPT has been working with the Penn Plaza Support and Action Group over the past several months to support residents there who are being displaced from their homes. Our neighbors and elders are being forced to leave their homes and communities to make room for luxury apartments and Whole Foods. They are moving to places with inadequate public transit, and  we say no to this displacement!

On March 9th, residents and members of the support group took to the streets in East Liberty to call out developers and the city for their role in this, setting up a living room in the intersection and demanding justice:

Picture: Penn Plaza residents set up living room at intersection

Residents are facing an eviction date of March 31st (this coming Friday). There will be a Penn Plaza Matters!: Memorial March Against Gentrification this Saturday, April 1st at noon at Penn and Centre. We will be marching from there, visiting various locations in East Liberty and ending at Penn Plaza. It will be a march to acknowledge the trauma of displacement but also an honoring of the resilience of the residents and a call to action to stop gentrification and demand housing for all.

Please attend if you are able. If you have any questions or need transportation, please call Chandana at (718) 309-0853.

Public Meetings Begin for BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Plans

Public meetings are being held for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a large transportation project that has been in discussion for years. Different infrastructure layouts and service plans will be presented.

The Port Authority, City, and County are asking for public input on transit infrastructure between downtown and Oakland. They are proposing bus dedicated lanes, bike lanes, new bus stations and stops, and all electric vehicles.

They are also asking for input on changes to the service patterns in this corridor and beyond. This will primarily affect everyone who rides the 61s and 71s, but will have an impact on the entire system.

There will be a community meeting in East Liberty on Thursday March 30th, 6-8 pm, Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 250 Highland Ave. PPT members have specifically been invited to this meeting to hear a presentation and ask questions.

There will be a larger public meeting on Wed April 5th, noon to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Alumni Hall in Oakland: 4227 Fifth Ave.

PPT is working to understand these proposals and the impact they will have on all riders. There could be good opportunities here, but there are also many concerns about transfers, accessibility, cost, relationship to development, and more. We will keep you all updated on what we are hearing from members and riders.

We encourage people to check out the website and presentation, attend one of the public meetings, and take the survey. For years, we’ve been asking for more transparency and opportunities for public engagement on this project. Let’s make sure we get our voices and perspectives heard now.

Life on Liberty

Envision Downtown is working on a pilot project to improve Liberty Ave. PPT is helping to get the word out about the project and to get public input.

Please take this survey now to indicate what you’d like to see on Liberty Ave downtown! Ideas include extending the narrow sidewalks for pedestrians and transit riders, decreasing the crossing distance at intersections, and creating bus lanes.

Any questions, let us know!

New Coordinating Committee Elected for PPT

Congratulations to our new coordinating committee:

Dean Mougianis
Debra Short
Jonah McAllister-Erickson
Laura Wiens
Lisa Gonzalez
Mel Packer
Nick Coles
Starr Magwood
Sue Scanlon
Tom Conroy
Tony Lodico

We have an amazing group of folks at PPT. Thanks to the coordinating committee and every single member for your hard work and continued involvement!

Upcoming Events:

BRT Public Meeting in East Liberty: Thursday March 30th from 6pm-8pm at Eastminster Presbyterian Church (250 Highland Ave)

Port Authority Board Meeting: Friday, March 31st at 9:30AM at 345 Sixth Avenue (please come out in support of residents at Mifflin Estates!)

Penn Plaza Matters: Memorial March Against Gentrification: Saturday, April 1st at 12:00pm at Penn and Centre (by Target)

BRT City-wide Public Meeting: Wednesday, April 5th from noon-2pm and 4pm-7pm at Alumni Hall in Oakland (4227 Fifth Avenue)

April Meeting for PPT: Wednesday, April 12th at 7:00PM at 1 Smithfield

Celebrate Transit Worker Appreciation Day March 21st!

Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) is celebrating National Transit Worker Appreciation Day on Tuesday, March 21st. PPT encourages riders and residents to thank our Port Authority bus and rail operators and maintenance workers for keeping us moving. We are coordinating over a dozen volunteers to distribute thank you cards and candy to transit riders, who can deliver them to their bus operators. We will also be distributing cards to maintenance workers. These cards say: “Because you rock, I roll,” and “Thanks for keeping us moving.”

On March 21st, volunteers will go to the Manchester Maintenance Shop (2235 Beaver Ave) at 9 am to thank the maintenance workers.

Thank you cards will be available to any riders, between 2 and 6 pm outside the Wood St T station downtown. Riders can also print out their own cards at this website: www.transitdriverday.org


We appreciate the opportunity to thank and honor the 2,000 public transit workers in Allegheny County who get riders to our destinations safely. These workers are out 365 days a year in rain, snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, as well as our hot summers. Bus operators collect fares, help riders find their way, handle safety issues, keep to a strict route schedule, and manage their way through traffic—along the steep and winding streets of our region. Maintenance workers maintain, repair, and clean the rails, buses, busways, stations, etc.  These workers are the backbone of our transit system, and we are grateful for the work they do each day to keep Allegheny County moving.

“The drivers deal with all the traffic so that I don’t have to.” –James Keener.

“I appreciate transit workers because they drive me to all of the places I need to go safely and stress free.” –Daisha Bernal

Social media tags: #pghlovestransitworkers, #transitworkerday, #thankyoutransitworkers

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/420909534915300/

PPT challenges Uber and calls for support for workers, immigrants, and public transportation

PPT co-sponsored a rally and march this past Saturday Feb 4 to challenge Uber and their relationship to our City. While PPT recognizes the value of on-demand transportation service in our region, we want to challenge Uber’s business model, which skirts regulations and restricts workers’ rights to organize. We are also concerned about the partnership Uber has with the Mayor’s administration. We are calling for a publicly operated on-demand transportation service that is equitable, accessible, and accountable to the communities it serves. 

Thanks to everyone who came out!

Here is coverage from the rally, and see below the photos for more information:


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Pittsburghers Protest Uber

WHAT: Protest Uber Pittsburgh!

WHEN: 12:00 PM Saturday, February 4th

WHERE: 2901 Liberty Ave in the Strip District (Denny Park)

WHO: Pittsburghers for Public Transit, One Pennsylvania, The Union Edge: Labor’s Talk Radio, LCLAA, Pittsburgh United, ROC Pittsburgh, ANSWER Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Socialist Alternative, Jewish Voice for Peace – Pittsburgh, The Thomas Merton Center, CAIR, Amalgamated Transit Union International, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85

Pittsburgh—On Saturday, Pittsburghers will rally to celebrate that our opposition to Uber’s collaboration with the Trump regime led to CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation from the Economic Advisory Council. Uber still has a long way to go. We demand that they repudiate all of Trump’s immoral and hateful policies, support campaigns to oppose anti-sanctuary bills in Harrisburg, and stop restricting workers’ rights to organize. Pittsburghers will also call on Mayor Peduto to reject Uber as a partner to this city, and to evaluate other on-demand transportation options that would allow for a more accountable and publicly-controlled expansion of our transit system.

We acknowledge that Uber has publicly opposed the immigration ban and taken some steps to support their immigrant workforce, and we view this only as a reaction to bad press due to massive public outcry. Immigrants, legal residents, and refugees were detained and deported, without a single comment from Uber—who waited to respond only after consumers took action against them. “All companies on Trump’s economic advisory board should understand that we see silence as tacit support of Trump’s actions,” says Erin Kramer of One Pennsylvania. “While we commend Uber’s resignation, we expect them to ACTUALLY support the immigrant workforce by treating their workers right and becoming a responsible community actor.”

Uber has repeatedly defied municipal, state, and national laws meant to protect the public interest. Across the globe, the company has fought any attempt to hold it to account to basic standards of safety and liability regulations, labor rights, environmental sustainability, data transparency, and compliance with civil rights laws such as the Americans With Disabilities Act. We are fundamentally opposed to Uber’s business model, which skirts regulations and refuses to recognize workers as employees with the right to unionize. On top of that, “Uber’s development of autonomous vehicles with no commitment to a just transition for workers will displace hundreds of thousands of workers across our economy,” says Tom Conroy with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85.

In Pittsburgh, Mayor Peduto has steered our City government into a public-private partnership to test autonomous vehicles without an open, thorough assessment of needs and the potential impacts on our public safety, transportation systems, and economy. He has pledged public resources and project opportunities without a transparent public selection process, offering unprecedented access to Uber of our public assets—including public transit busways—in preparation for the Smart Cities application. The City and Uber have also failed to adequately involve Four Mile Run residents in the planning of the autonomous vehicle shuttle loop that would bisect their Hazelwood community.

“We need public transportation systems that are equitable, accessible, and accountable to the communities they serve,” said Chandana Cherukupalli, organizer with Pittsburghers for Public Transit. “Our elected leaders should be pursuing opportunities for publicly operated on-demand transit service, which creates union jobs and is affordable to all residents.”

Emily Hannon, with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, asserts, “We must demand that local politicians focus their energies on the public, not partnerships with greedy corporations.”

“Pittsburgh stands in solidarity with Muslims, immigrants, and our sisters and brothers in the labor movement. Any corporation that collaborates with Trump and his harmful policies should be held responsible,” said Christina Castillo, with the Thomas Merton Center.